Wait, How Much Time Has Passed on Succession?

It’s Logan’s birthday again, but how much older is he? Photo: David M. Russell/David M. Russell

The premiere of Succession’s fourth season takes place on Logan Roy’s birthday. So did the show’s pilot. This raises a question: Just how much time has passed since we first caught up with those poor little rich kids and their watch-based antics?

Time on Succession is a little wonky. In the real world, it’s been almost five years since the first episode aired, but clearly far less time has passed in-universe. Certain episodes take place over the course of a single day. Sometimes a whole season will be building up to an important event, and only in retrospect will you realize that a stretch that lasted months out here was only weeks in there. And then there’s the gap between seasons, which is rarely spelled out. (The premiere could’ve used a “Say uncle Logan, I haven’t seen you since that board meeting nine months ago.”) Showrunner Jesse Armstrong has stated outright that he’s not too concerned about making sure every detail fits, so does that mean we should just ignore Kendall’s children aging into teens? Anyone breaking out the corkboard in hope of producing a definitive timeline will probably be disappointed.

Still, it’s understandable to want answers. The tenor of Tom and Shiv’s relationship changes depending on whether it’s been only one year since he proposed in the hospital or several. Same with Kendall and the length of his stint as fill-in CEO for his father. And who wouldn’t want to know the month Lady Caroline’s Italian wedding took place in — the weather was divine!

Let’s dive into the question of time passing in Succession. But, first, a tip of the hat to the sleuths of Reddit, whose research on this issue has been an invaluable resource.

Season 1

A March wedding. Photo: HBO

We start on firm ground. Judging by the weather and the fact that Shiv is working on the closing stages of a senatorial campaign, the pilot episode takes place in the fall. Additional evidence for this comes from a popular fan theory that suggests episode five, the one where everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, takes place on Thanksgiving.

The season climaxes with Shiv’s wedding, and as luck would have it, we know when that is, too: In episode six, the bride told Nate, the show’s worst character, that she was “getting married in March.” Add it all up, and season one takes place over a span of roughly six months. So far, so normal.

Season 2

Argestes chic. Photo: HBO

The second season opens with Kendall recovering from accidentally killing a man at the wedding by hiding out at an Icelandic spa. He says he’s been there only “like 48 hours,” so we’re still in March.

One Redditor notes that season two sees the characters gradually shedding layers. Episode three is the hunting trip to Hungary, where people are still fairly bundled up outside. Episode six, “Argestes,” has them in vests and light jackets. Episode nine is the Congressional hearings in DC, where Shiv is walking around without a coat. From this we can deduce there are no major time jumps, and everything’s unfolding over the course of the spring and early summer.

In that same episode, Kendall mentions that Senator Gil Eavis, the show’s second-worst character, has been on ATN “14 times in the last four months,” a result of the deal Shiv brokered with Logan at her wedding. Therefore, the earliest the hearings can be taking place is July. It’s definitely summer in the season finale, because everyone’s frolicking on a yacht in the Aegean Sea, wearing swimsuits and generally having a great time until dad shows up.

Also in episode nine, Frank mentions that the all-important shareholder meeting is two-and-a-half weeks away. Remember this!

Season 3

This has to be summer, right? Photo: Graeme Hunter/HBO

The season-three premiere picks up in the immediate aftermath of Kendall’s big press conference in the season-two finale. From that moment on, the show seems to be operating on a much more compressed timeline than preceding seasons. In our world there was a whole pandemic between two and three; in show world, it’s only a matter of days. That shareholder meeting that Frank said was two-and-a-half weeks away finally happens in episode five. Seventeen days for the Roys was over two years for viewers.

It’s still summer in episode six, when the family travels to a Republican Party conference to choose the next president. We’re told the man they call “the raisin” will be “out of a job in six months,” which points to it still being July. (Elsewhere in the episode, someone says it’s “six months to Election Day” but the conference happening in May doesn’t square with everything else we know.) It can’t be any later than August, because the convention hasn’t happened yet. The fact that it’s an election year is also worth remembering.

The home stretch of season three could relax the pacing a bit. Lady Caroline’s wedding is announced in episode six and begins in episode eight, which you’d figure would probably be a few months later. Plus there’s all the back-and-forth with the GoJo deal to account for. But it’s warm in Tuscany for the wedding, which indicates it could be as late as October that same year or that we’ve jumped ahead to May of the following year. As we’ll see, though, each option makes things weird.

Season 4

How long were they brainstorming The Hundred? Photo: HBO/HBO

Two things are incontrovertible about the season premiere: From the weather we know it’s fall, and from the fact that it’s Logan’s birthday, we know it’s the same time of year as the pilot. It’s also clear that some time has passed since the season-three finale. Roman tells Kendall not to abandon The Hundred because Ken “spent the last three months hunting down investors.” The question is, how long did it take them to think of the idea? (Judging by its quality, not very long.)

However, this puts us in a bind. It can’t be have been more than a year since season three, since we’re told repeatedly that the presidential election hasn’t happened yet. But if it’s only three months, that means that season three ended before early August, and that in turns means all nine episodes took place over the span of roughly one month.

If all that is true, then it has in fact only been one year since the first episode of Succession. But wait! Shiv was working on a senate campaign back then, and now it’s a presidential election. Aren’t those two years apart? I’ve heard theories that the senate campaign could have been a special election, and in the absence of a better explanation, we might have to go with that.

(Update: Ben Dreyfuss points out that this is not how New York’s senate elections work. So unless we assume the laws are different in this universe, we’re at a loss.)

Now, do the character dynamics of Succession align with the idea that everything is supposed to have happened within the span of a year? I would venture they do not; the real-world passage of time can’t help but seep into the writing and the performances. As viewers, we’re left with two options: Assume that somewhere along the way there were one or more time jumps I haven’t accounted for here, or accept the fact that we’ve put way more thought into this subject than the writers have and, as Logan might say, fuck off.

Wait, How Much Time Has Passed on Succession?